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Why Do Salespeople Sell?

June 13, 2003

Multi-National Study Reveals Motivation

New study shows sales motivation differs sharply by country

  • U.S. and Singaporean Sales Teams: "Show me the money!"

  • Aussies and Norwegians: "Don't tie me down!"

  • Canadians: "Let me use my abilities"

A major new study of sales motivation to be presented in November at the annual convention of the Society for Marketing Advances reveals significant cultural differences driving sales success. "It helps explain why some of our best made-in-the-USA sales management practices aren't more effective in other nations," says Dr. John F. Tanner, III, associate professor of Marketing at Baylor University's Hankamer School of Business. "The answers may lie in what really provides motivation for salespeople."

The study, co-authored by Tanner and noted researcher George W. Dudley at the Behavioral Sciences Research Press in Dallas, Texas, asked almost 41,000 people across nine nations what they hope to obtain from their sales careers.  Motivations assessed included opportunities to use talents, make money, work creatively, obtain status, interact with people, be self-managed, progress into management, freedom from routine, and opportunities to be of service to others.  The nations studied include Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Norway, Singapore, Sweden, U.K. and U.S.A. The study used the Sales Preference Questionnaire (SPQ®), to obtain data. SPQ is a specialized psychological test used world-wide to assess sales prospecting call reluctance.

"Their motivations form a colorful and vastly more complex tapestry than superficial stereotypes allow," says Dudley. "Sales motivation in the U.S.," adds Tanner, "is more money-motivated than in other nations, but there are other more complex motivations at work." Thirty-three percent of U.S. salespeople and 36% of the salespeople in the U.K. say they work primarily to earn substantial incomes. This compares to only 9% in Norway and 11% in New Zealand, where "lifestyle" considerations such as opportunities to use their abilities and freedom from routine are considered more important.  In fact, "successful U.S. salespeople often shun advancement into management," Dudley adds, "because they can usually make much more money in sales." That further distinguishes U.S. salespeople from those of other nations, where sales is frequently viewed as a temporary step on the way to management.  Over 12% of Australian salespeople actually seek a career in management.   

For the majority of Australian salespeople, opportunities to use their abilities and freedom from routine are more important motivators than making money, a preference shared by salespeople in New Zealand. However, only 17% of the salespeople in Singapore are similarly motivated. Like their U.S. counterparts, Singaporean salespeople sell primarily to make money.

U.S. salespeople are more money-motivated than salespeople in other countries. But, they are also more service oriented. Fourteen percent of American salespeople say being of service to others is their primary motivation. Among the countries studied by Dudley and Tanner, salespeople in only one other country, New Zealand (11.5%), even approach that level.

What do these differences portend?  Says Dudley, "Knowing what makes salespeople tick is critical for finding and keeping top producers."  According to Tanner, co-author of the leading university-level textbook on selling, "The implications are serious and far-reaching, especially when it comes to multi-national sales management practices. American sales management and training and procedures adhere to our presupposed values and perceptions, and may not be optimal, or even suitable, for other countries."

A full copy of the research is available from the authors or can be viewed online at (Adobe Acrobat Reader required).

About Behavioral Sciences Research Press

Behavioral Sciences Research Press (BSRP) is a small Dallas, Texas organization with a large international reach. Since 1979, BSRP has concentrated in three core areas: scientific (psychological) research and development, publishing and training. BSRP specializes in psychometric and training applications which are practical without being superficial. The company successfully balances good science, sound psychological applications and excellent customer service and support. BSRP researches, discovers, manufactures and refines some of the applications leading consultants around the world use and sell. Chances are that a major BSRP research project is underway somewhere in the world right now.

For more information, visit

About Baylor Business

Students at Baylor's Hankamer School of Business encounter a variety of experiences that strengthen their value system, develop their leadership skills and help them build a global perspective based on a strong Christian foundation. Today, there are approximately 3,500 students enrolled in Baylor's business school. More than 22,000 Baylor Business Alumni are making a difference in business, in the world, and most importantly, in the lives of people.

  • Baylor University is rated as a "Best Buy" in the 2002 Fiske Guide to Colleges.

  • The Baylor Business undergraduate program ranks in the top 16% of accredited collegiate business programs in U.S. News and World Report.

  • Baylor Business graduate programs also garner national attention. The MBA program is rated in the top 20% of accredited collegiate business programs in U.S. News and World Report. In addition, the MBA program is ranked as one of the "Top 80 Business Schools in America," in The Princeton Review.

  • Baylor Business Executive MBA programs are recognized for excellence world wide. The Dallas EMBA is ranked 1st in the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex, 14th in U.S. and 25th in world by The Financial Times. Baylor's EMBA programs are rated Tier One by US News and World Report.

  • The Entrepreneurship program is ranked 1st Tier by Entrepreneur magazine and 9th by U.S. News and World Report.

  • The Accounting program is ranked 10th by The National Association of State Boards of Accountancy, for pass rate on 2000 CPA exam.

For more information, visit

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